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Tony Grist

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Various [Aug. 14th, 2007|09:43 am]
Tony Grist
1.The wooden fence on the other side of the back alley has been replaced by heavy duty wire mesh. Two advantages. One: the kids won't be able to set it in fire. Two: standing at an upstairs window, I can see through it to the lawn beyond and it's almost as if our back garden had been extended.

2. My first attempt at growing tomatoes has been a dismal failure. I've got three plants and they've produced five nuggety green fruits- about the size of strawberries. My father in law- who gave me two of  the plants- says it's been a bad year for everyone. Blame it on the weather.

3. My latest jigsaw is a picture of a village wedding by one of the younger Breughels. I don't suppose I've ever spent more time poring over an old master. The posh people are sitting under a tree in a meadow and their retainers and bodyguards and poor relations are standing behind them watching them eat. One or two of the faces seem to be portraits. I haven't counted the faces but there must be getting on for a hundred. Differences in style suggest this is a studio work and all the apprentices took turns at painting faces and areas of foliage. "Here, Jacob, you're not doing anything important. Come over here and do me a wedding guest." 

4. Professor Dawkins was bashing the New Age last night. And, yes, it deserves to be bashed. But I'm not easy.  He was testing dowsers and this poor woman who had scored no better than average was genuinely distressed- suggesting that normally- out in the field with the wind blowing free- she gets results.  Is she a fraud or a self-deceiver or is it just possible that application of the scientific method causes psi abilities to freeze?  "Which side are you one, boy?" Well neither, actually. Put me down as a conscientious objector. Science on one side, superstition on the other? No, I just don't think it's as simple as that.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: strange_complex
2007-08-14 10:24 am (UTC)
Jigsaws are such a great way to really get to know a work of art intimately, aren't they?

And I didn't see Dawkins' programme last night, but have been fascinated by the reactions provoked on my friends list. Most of the pro camp have their reservations about his style, while some have been markedly offended.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-14 10:42 am (UTC)
I'm not offended by Dawkins. It's just that I'm as sure as I can be that there's a spiritual dimension to existence and- well- that's it really.
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2007-08-14 10:32 am (UTC)
1. Excellent move on someone's part! A win-win situation.

2. If you were trying to grow them outside, then it's no wonder they didn't ripen. When I was a kid we had an allotment for a few years, and even with a greenhouse, we didn't always get reliable ripening in the wet, cold Manchester summers. My mother found a very good recipe for green tomato chutney, which used up at least one crop of green bullet-like tomatoes. :)

3. What a fun way to study old masters.

4. I'm totally agnostic about Psi powers. I'd love them to be true, but am mostly doubtful. However, I do know that even a tiny amount of mental stress can affect my mind in subtle ways.

For example I might have a problem with a computer in class. While the class is there and part of my mind is trying to keep track of what's going on, I'll be unable to solve the problem. But the moment everyone leaves and I can slip into the necessary calm, gently focused, problem solving state of mind, I'll sort it out right away. Thus I can easily believe that the stress of being tested would disrupt a subtle skill like dowsing.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-14 02:50 pm (UTC)
My father-in-law off-loaded a whole lot of little green tomatoes on us last year and they were delicious.

I think it's in the nature of psi to be elusive- and allergic to men and women in white coats.

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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2007-08-14 01:25 pm (UTC)
My condolences on your tomatoes. We put out a smallish organic patch - by local rural standards - for eight years running. Some years we couldn't give away all the tomatoes, others we barely got a few good slicers out of the lot. This year we limited ourselves to just seven plants here at the house. So far, so good.
"Which side are you on, boy?" Well neither, actually. Put me down as a conscientious objector. Science on one side, superstition on the other? No, I just don't think it's as simple as that.
Well said. There's something about anti-psi investigators that reminds me of a little boy whistling past a graveyard at night. If they're really as certain of their conclusions as they seem, why bother?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-14 02:53 pm (UTC)
It would be interesting to know what is really driving Dawkins. Why is he so angry with a God who doesn't exist?

In Houdini's case we know the reason he waged war on fradulent mediums was because he was desperate to find a genuine one who could channel his mother for him.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2007-08-14 03:17 pm (UTC)
I have no idea what drives Dawkins. It's usually easier to pick up chicks with a tarot deck than with the latest issue of Nature. Perhaps after a while the unfairness of it all just gets to you.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-14 03:56 pm (UTC)
You know, I think you could have hit on something there.....
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2007-08-14 02:53 pm (UTC)
This is a complete non sequitur, and I apologize, but I'm at work, and don't want to spend time looking through your LJ for the appropriate entry.

Remember your disquisition on fanfic? Well, it turns out that Robert Ludlum has published 12 books since he died six years ago. The justification the publisher gives is Sherlock Holmes and "The 7% Solution". The comment was something like "People only care about the characters and a good story." (Not an exact quote--based on a NYTimes article I was listening to.)

So... what's the difference between Robert Ludlum and fanfic?!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-14 02:58 pm (UTC)
What's the difference between Robert Ludlum and fanfic?

Very little in my book. Ludlum has become a franchise.

The difference between the Ludlum clones and people who have written non-canonical Sherlock Holmes stories is that there's been no attempt in the latter case to pretend that Arthur Conan Doyle is still at his desk.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2007-08-14 02:55 pm (UTC)
About your jigsaw puzzle--have you seen Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George"? It's sort of the musical version of what you're doing, with stories about all the people in the park; I think you'd like it.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-14 03:04 pm (UTC)
That sounds like fun.

I'm woefully ignorant of Sondheim. The only thing of his I've seen Is A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum- which I was taken to see on it's original London run- many moons ago.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2007-08-14 05:03 pm (UTC)
The only thing of his I've seen Is A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum- which I was taken to see on it's original London run- many moons ago.

I have that cast recording. Very cool.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979) is my hands-down favorite of his musicals, although I am also very fond of A Little Night Music (1973; based on Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night) and Assassins (1991).
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[User Picture]From: zoe_1418
2007-08-14 07:21 pm (UTC)
I haven't done an enormous number of jigsaw puzzles, but I do like them. One of my favorites to work on was a topographical map of Yellowstone Park -- with all the rivers and creeks, elevations, etc. It was many years ago, but I'm pretty sure I got it from the National Geographic catalog. I love maps anyway, and it was a nice way to look closely at an area.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-14 08:31 pm (UTC)
I generally have one on the go. The current one has 2000 pieces (twice the size I usually attempt) and has taken me ages.
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[User Picture]From: zoe_1418
2007-08-14 08:38 pm (UTC)
We have such a small house -- and we have cats -- that we can't leave a puzzle out for very long, except maybe around Christmas.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-14 09:01 pm (UTC)
Ah, I have the answer to that. It's called a Puzzlekaddy. It's a big board with a felt surface- to hold the pieces in place- and folding covers that velcro into place. It allows you to protect your part-completed puzzle and also move it from room to room.
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From: manfalling
2007-08-17 02:22 pm (UTC)
I wondered this too about Dawkins- why hate on religion so much? Is it really harming anyone?

Well, he thinks it is.

There's a chap called Sam Harris in the US who's writing books saying religion is seriously to blame for a lot of the bad stuff in the world. Dawkins seems to roll with that. In that religion is all about tribalism and dogma, and those as bad things. They foment division and competition between groups, and they provide fertile soil for fanatics to grow within.

Some religious dudes think being moderate is OK, and would push Dawkins to go in that direction. But he really believes it's the moderates that give license to the fanatics, by backing up their mad beliefs by just believing themselves.

I don't know if Harris and Dawkins are right- but it's very interesting stuff. I think it must be scientifically testable too.

But then I wonder- if people didn't divide into groups under the aegis of religion, surely they'd divide in some other way? As long as there was pressure to reward such kind of division. Eg- Communist/Capitalist? That used to be the big one.

Isn't the War on Terror a new kind of Cold War?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-17 03:29 pm (UTC)
I think human beings naturally peel off into gangs, tribes, nations etc. Religion may help define the divisions but it doesn't cause them.

Are the gangs who are shooting it out on the streets of Manchester defined by religion? Of course not.

Religion and the gang mentality are both hard-wired into human nature. Maybe we can outgrow them. It would be nice if we did.

But I'm afraid Dawkins and co are just creating another gang.

Is the War on Terror a new Cold War? Not really. That was a stand-off between nuclear superpowers. This is something rather different.
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From: manfalling
2007-08-18 01:00 am (UTC)
Yeah that's what I thought about Dawkins also- he's just starting a new fundamentalist group that is intolerant of others. I read about it ages ago in a copy of the magazine Wired, and it made me uneasy.

He says he's not a fundamentalist because he'd change his mind in a second if the evidence was presented to him.

Cold War- fair enough, it's not quite the same. I was rather thinking about the effects of fear, and the way Islam vs Christianity separates countries and mass groups in a big culture clash in a similar way to Communism vs. Capitalism.

In that sense, it's pretty similar, with Iraq being much like Vietnam- a place to make a stand and keep the red tide/war on terror at bay.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-18 11:30 am (UTC)
I wonder what it would really take to make Dawkins change his mind? God and the supernatural can always be explained away. I think he's pretty safe, actually.

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From: manfalling
2007-08-19 01:36 am (UTC)
I don't think it's possible to change his mind- because it's not so much a war on religion he's waging, as a war on faith. And the whole point of faith is that there is no proof for it. So if there ever was proof, then it wouldn't be faith any more, and he wouldn't need to attack it. So yeah, he wins either way.

Faith, he thinks, is an evolutionary hang-up that maybe once had relevance, but no longer does, and is something we need to grow out of and let go of.

I tend to agree with him about this.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-19 12:10 pm (UTC)
My problem with Dawkins is that I believe there really are things out there that his brand of materialistic science doesn't account for. I wouldn't characterise this belief as "faith" exactly. I mean, does one have faith in ghosts?



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From: manfalling
2007-08-20 01:57 am (UTC)
He`d brand it a kind of faith, I`m sure, since it requires belief and cannot be proven.



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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-20 08:54 am (UTC)
It annoys me that anecdotal evidence- of which there's a huge amount- counts for absolutely nothing. If it can't be replicated in a laboratory it's worthless.
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